My friend Steve told me about how Ben Zander decided to give all his music students an “A” at the beginning of the year so they’d be free to produce their best work. Anybody who does something like that deserves to be read, so I bought the book to find out more.
All the students had to do was to write to Zander within two weeks of beginning their course, imagining it to be the end of the year, and telling him how they had attained their A.
These letters from the students to Zander are moving, but the thing that catches my attention are the comments from the students about how they feel just making their way to the classroom:
“When I come to your class, Ben, I feel the glow coming as I walk down the corridor, and by the time I’ve arrived – I’ve arrived happy and excited and ready to go.”*
The thing is, we all have an A in life. We just had to figure out what we’re going to do to show why – something beautiful, something which brings together your past, present, and future.
I went on to read this from Richard Sennett: ‘the desire to do something well for its own sake can be impaired by competitive pressure, by frustration, or by obsession. Sennett is writing about how ‘Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human desire to do a job well for its own sake,’**
Once pressure, frustration, and obsession are removed, Sennett says, the apprentice can learn from their experiences of resistance and ambiguity, developing skills to repair and improvise which, ultimately, make it possible ‘to conduct life with skill.’** Such a person uses their progress to uncover more problems to overcome and, so, develop their skills.
‘Have you ever risen above the person you were and for at least a few moments become the person you only imagined yourself to be?’^
‘When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realise themselves … a possibility to live into.’^^
(*Carina, quoted in Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)
(**From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(^From Erwin McManus’s The Artisan Soul.)
(^^From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)